An ensemble of glass pipette tips in front of a black background.

Chemicals and Pharmacy

The human body is one huge chemistry lab, and nearly everything we use in everyday life would be unthinkable without chemistry. The “Pills and Pipettes” exhibition explains the processes by which chemicals and pharmaceuticals are produced as well as the qualities and effects these substances have.

The exhibition is temporarily closed until further notice. We ask for your understanding

Chemistry and Pharmaceutics:
Two Sides of the Same Coin

Four hundred square meters of exhibition space are divided into two large sections: the blue section focuses chemistry, the green on pharmaceutics. It quickly becomes clear how closely connected these two disciplines are. Pharmaceuticals, or medical drugs, aid our bodies by regulating chemical and hormonal processes. Their production follows the same laws of chemistry as that of “normal” chemicals. Ultimately, all substances are composed of molecules. And the discipline devoted to the combination and modification of molecules is chemistry

 

A museum visitor holds the handset of an audio station up to her ear. She looks at a molecular model made of black, white, and red balls.
At audio stations, molecules tell the story of their discovery.
SDTB / C. Musiol

Talking Molecules and Fireworks

Visitors to the exhibition are introduced to the techniques and equipment used in a laboratory, from glass pipettes to modern pipetting robots. At audio stations, various molecules tell the fascinating story of their own discovery. And from the start, the exhibition is interactive. At one lab station, visitors can try their hand at pyrotechnics, choosing their own colors, designing their own fireworks, and lighting them off. Pyrochemicals exemplify the wide range of products manufactured by the chemical industry.

 

Two museum visitors stand at a media station, looking at a screen. It shows the Berlin skyline in silhouette. A firework explodes in the nighttime sky.
At this media station, museum visitors can make their own fireworks out of various pyrochemicals.
SDTB / C. Musiol

Schering: An Early Berlin Startup in the Chemical Sector

Since the 19th century, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry has shaped modern society like no other. Berlin was an important location in its development, and Schering a decisive player. The exhibition focuses on the company’s laboratory research, industrial production, and the question of the use and safety of some of its products. The transformation of the company’s facility in Berlin’s Wedding district is depicted in 3D animation.

The Discovery of Hormones and the Development of Contraception

A black and white photo from 1938. Three workers – two male, one female – stand around a blackboard in the Schering laboratory. Molecular structures are drawn on it in chalk.
Diagramming the chemical structure of hormones in the Schering laboratory.
Bayer AG, Schering Archives

Schering is also a good example of the collaboration between universities and private companies for the purpose of research into sexual hormones. Indeed, this was the first-ever such collaboration, and it was very successful, resulting in the discovery of hormones in the 1920s. Another part of the exhibition focuses on Schering’s subsequent development of the birth control pill, thus illustrating the history of a pharmaceutical product. In a listening booth, visitors can hear original audio recordings from the last 50 years of people discussing “the pill.” Various methods of contraception and the social consequences for family planning and sexuality are also addressed.

Ask Your Doctor or Pharmacist about Risks and Side Effects

Two museum visitors look at an infographic. Green and white light fields help illustrate the path medicines take from active ingredients to pharmaceutical drugs.
“Medicines for human use.” How active ingredients become pharmaceutical drugs.
SDTB / C. Musiol

It takes many years and a great deal of money to develop the active ingredient in a pharmaceutical drug. And even then, effective drugs will always have side effects – a fact that entails legal questions about their safety. At an interactive media station at the end of the exhibition, visitors can hear various opinions on the topic – and form their own.

 

 

Highlights

Der Stierhodenschneider wurde um 1950 von der Firma Schering gebaut. Es handelt sich um eine besonders stabile Schlagmesserklinge, die auf eine Metallplatte montiert ist, und mit einem Metallgriff an der Seite heruntergedrückt wird.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Bull testicle slicer

One part of the exhibition is devoted to the discovery of hormones. A rich source of male sex hormones turned out to be bull testicles. To more easily extract the desired hormones from them, they first had to be chopped up. The Schering research lab built its own tools for cutting these rather robust organs.

Schering AG, ca. 1950, on loan from Schering AG

Das Stäubegerät ist aus Metall, seine Seitenteile sind blau. Es ist oben offen und hat einen roten Tragegriff. An der rechten Seite sitzt eine Handkurbel mit hölzernem Griff. An der Vorderseite befindet sich ein Rohr mit einer am Auslass verbreiterten Tülle, durch die das Insektenpulver verstreut wurde.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Duster

Humans have long tried to protect crops from pests by applying poisonous salts and other substances to them, as insects and molds have perennially led to the loss of entire harvests. The duster on display here comes from the 1930s. By turning the hand crank, the powder was evenly distributed and the plants were dusted with insecticide. The person using the duster worked in a cloud of calcium arsenate, Paris green, or DDT.

ca. 1935, gift of the Kreisagrarmuseum Dorf Mecklenburg

Das Pillenbrett aus Holz hat eine geriffelte Fläche. Darauf liegt ein ebenfalls geriffeltes hölzernes Handteil. Mit dem Handteil wurde die teigartige Arzneimasse vorsichtig über die Riffelung gerollt. So entstanden gleichmäßige Einzelportionen.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Pill board, 1880

Down to the 17th century, pills had to be rolled individually by hand. Only when pill boards like this were introduced could production be simplified. To use it, a kneadable paste first had to be mixed. Once the right consistency was reached, the mass was rolled into a cord that had the same width as the grooved surface of the pill board. There were no precise instructions, so a pill’s properties (decay, dissolution, release) could not be predicted.

J. W. Pindar & Co., 1880, on loan from Schering AG

Die Tabletten-Rundläuferpresse erinnert an einen großen Spielautomaten. An der Vorderseite ist ein vorspringendes Bedienfeld mit drei großen Drehschaltern und eine Tastatur angebracht. In Augenhöhe sitzt ein großes Sichtfenster.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Korsch PH 300 – 43 tablet press

The Korsch PH 300 is a standard rotary tablet press of the kind that has been used in industrial production since the 1980s. A rotating turret turns the round die table. Powder that has been fed into a die is pressed into the form of a tablet by an upper and lower punch. The tablet then slides down onto a conveyor belt. This machine has 43 sets of punches and dies. In standard operation, it can produce 216,000 tablets per hour. It was state of the art when it was built.

Korsch AG, 1984

Partnership

Cooperation with the Schering Stiftung, Berlin. Supported by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft e.V.

Logo Kooperation: Schriftzug "Eine Kooperation von", darunter das Logo der Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin in weiß auf grauem Grund, links daneben die Bildmarke, die einer Fahrradkette gleicht, darunter der Schriftzug "Schering Stiftung" und ein stilisiertes Dreieck, das aus Quadraten zusammengesetzt ist.
Logo des Stifterverbandes: Ein blaues S, darum herum ein Kreis in drei Fragmenten in blau, grau und rot, darunter der Schriftzug "Stifterverband".